IN HER OWN WORDS
A Senior Meal Recipient Shares Her Story
“I’m 93, but I don’t identify as an ‘old person,’ I don’t let it control me.” Stella Ungar tells me, and I don’t blame her. She’s sharp as a tack, and incredibly vibrant in both her personality and her style (she’s wearing bright rainbow socks that can’t be seen in the video).
Stella, a Holocaust survivor and a retired nurse, has been involved with the Barbara and Ray Alpert JCC since 1984, when she first moved to Long Beach. In fact, getting in touch with the local Jewish Community Center was the first thing she did upon arriving in Long Beach. In each place she lived in prior, the feeling of a community united in Jewish values was lacking. She recalls her and her sister being the “only two Jewish kids,” in their childhood town in Germany, then again in Terre Haute, Indiana, and then again in Chicago. Finally, in Long Beach, she found her niche.
Finally, in Long Beach, she found her niche.
HER CENTER FOR LIFE
“I was more agile then, and enjoyed the fitness center.” She explains her initial relationship to the J. “As I got older and lost my mobility, I started only going to the Wednesday lunch.”
Stella is referring to in person weekly senior luncheons that now only feel like a distant memory. Wednesday afternoons set the social scene for many active adults, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to gather in the Stuhlbarg Senior Lounge at the Alpert JCC for food, choir, games and more. Stella recalls her favorite memories having little to do with the lunch at all, but the friends she would make via random seating arrangements. When social gatherings stopped abruptly in March 2020, the sudden isolation took a heavy emotional toll on many of us, including Stella.
A PROGRAM PIVOTS
“When I don’t hear from my friends in a while, I worry if they’re even still alive.” Although she’s become pretty tech-savvy in the past year (she boasts being able to enjoy Zoom calls with her family in Chicago), many of her peers still rely on face to face communication.
When seniors stopped gathering in person, the J knew we had to act quickly to stay in touch with this particularly vulnerable group. Almost immediately, the senior lunch program pivoted to a delivery-based platform. Now, each week, dozens of eager volunteers dawn their signature teal “JCC Cares” t-shirts, and bag and deliver over 100 hot lunches in a system so refined, it’s like clockwork.
Thanks to the generosity of our partners such as the Grand of Long Beach, we are able to deliver these meals at no cost to the recipient. Seven dollars is all it takes to help seniors like Stella stay connected in these uncertain times.
The J is more than just a center for the Jewish community. We’re here to serve everyone, regardless of religion or any other identity. As Stella puts it, “It’s simply a center that happens to be Jewish, for the community.”
Long Beach Gives | September 23
On September 23, more than 200 nonprofit organizations will be rallying supporters from every corner of Long Beach to help local nonprofit organizations thrive.
This year, we are committed to raising $60,000 for our Senior Adult Meal Delivery Program. Through this program, we provide senior adults a healthy and delicious meal who are housebound due to COVID-19 at no cost.